Sheffield High School Alumni

Sheffield, Alabama (AL)

Alumni Stories

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Earl H. Tilford

Class of 1964

I came to SHS as a junior in the fall of 1962. Since I lived in Leighton, I had to pay $25.00 a semester "tuition." I was an "academic redshirt" who, having earned very poor grades, was headed for the "dustbin" of life. Teachers like Shirley Wagnon and Ellen Miller challenged me. I decided to repeat the 11th grade just to learn more and to learn a language. I did. Proms? Never attended one: too busy studying to bother. Sock hops? I went but never danced: too shy to ask and, I thought I "didn't belong" in a rather class-conscious environment.

In 1964 I graduated and, that fall, entered the University of Alabama where I majored in history and minored in English and geography. I earned my bachelor's degree in 1968 along with a commission as a second lieutenant in the US Air Force. I took an "educational delay" to earn a Master of Arts degree before reporting for duty in November 1969. After a year of training as an Air Intelligence Officer, I was assigned to Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base as an intelligence officer supporting the air war in northern Laos.

I spent the next 23 years in the Air Force, during which I earned a PhD in history at George Washington University. I published two books during that time, both on the air war in Vietnam. One, my doctoral dissertation turned into "A History of US Air Force Operations in Southeast Asia, 1961-1968," was published in 1981 and republished a couple of times since. The second, "Crosswinds: The Air Force's Setup in Vietnam" was published by Texas A&M University Press in 1993. During my Air Force career, I taught history at the US Air Force Academy.

In 1993, I retired from the Air Force to become Director of Research for the US Army Strategic Studies Institute located at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. I was there until July 2001, when I left to accept a professorship at Grove City College, a Christian liberal arts college in western Pennsylvania.

In July 2008, I retired again this time to return to Tuscaloosa where I researched and wrote a history of the University of Alabama in the 1960s titled, "Turning the Tide: The UNiversity of Alabama in the 1960s," currently scheduled for publication next year.

At Sheffield High School, I was challenged to be someone I didn't think I could be, something I thought was beyond my capabilities. It took hard, hard work and a lot of personal sacrifice (like NO going to proms, NOT taking time to meet a lot of wonderful young women I wish I had met), but in the end, I made out fine. Thank you Shirley, Ellen, and Carl Boley for giving me that chance. Thank you Sheffield High School.

Military Alumni

Military High School Alumni

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